Understanding the Crime Analysis Paradigm

By Burns, Suzy; Gebhardt, Christopher | Law & Order, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Understanding the Crime Analysis Paradigm


Burns, Suzy, Gebhardt, Christopher, Law & Order


Crime analysis has received a renewed focus largely in part to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. However, the definitions of analysis and the role of analysts have largely been ill-defined at best. Analytical functions in one agency do not represent the same functions in another. Local, state and federal analysts may share job titles but the course of their actual involvement in analysis is subjective to the specific agency.

Crime analysis, through the past two decades, has grown and matured into its own field in law enforcement. It has become a multi-disciplinary field. Crime analysts often start their careers as generalists that may, in time, specialize in one or more of the following areas, research, management, administrative, strategic, geographic, tactical, operational and exploratory. But just knowing the specialized areas can still lead an agency astray when hiring or announcing a crime analyst position.

With a broad scope of analysis techniques available, many agencies are prone to make mistakes when searching for personnel to fulfill the title of Crime analyst. There are many discussions between the utility of sworn or civilians members as full time analysts. Both personnel choices have their merits and drawbacks.

Sworn personnel, unlike their civilian counterparts, can easily be moved to other areas of the agency if they do not perform. Civilian movement within an agency occurs less frequently as most civilians are hired for their specialty. Civilians who are entering the field of crime analysis often seek out training and certification before or immediately after hiring. Sworn members may not have the time or resources offered to them for training. A mix of civilian and sworn crime analysis units are possible, but many agencies do not have the personnel resources available for such a unit.

Many additional factors need to be considered when forming a crime analysis unit. Agency size and service area size will have a large effect on how many analysts to hire. Agency call volume in the form of number of offenses, calls for service, traffic citations, and more can all be used to determine the number of analysts. The type of analytical expertise will also impact the number of analysts. The more types of crimes being analyzed, the more analysts will be needed. Of course, as the number of analysts approaches a certain level, a need arises for a supervisory analyst or lead analyst. Again, the numbers to determine the need for such a person will mainly be centered on the agency and its rules of supervision.

Not understanding the field of crime analysis is a mistake agencies make when searching for a crime analyst. For example, one agency recently released an employment announcement for a crime analyst who would be everything to everyone. They were asking for a specialist in all areas of analysis including skill sets that were not part of the crime analysis field. The problem with this approach is that few people can be everything to everyone.

The agency that asked for the "everything" analyst failed to understand that a crime analyst may understand each of the desired requirements but may not conduct all of the desired analyses with precision. A closer analogy to law enforcement would be with investigators. Homicide investigators receive different training than fraud investigators. Can they both perform investigations? Of course. Would the homicide investigator be capable of investigating a forgery or identity theft? Sure, but he may miss a piece of information that the trained fraud investigator now takes for granted.

The California Department of Justice certifies individuals as crime and intelligence analysts. Part of that certification process requires the individual to attend eight basic courses ranging from strategic and tactical analysis to intelligence and financial analysis as well as completing a 400-hour internship with a law enforcement agency. It is expected that upon completion of the courses and internship, the individual will have gained a basic working knowledge of the various fields of crime analysis and be able to perform, at a basic level, all of the analysis.

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